Batsmen rule the modern day cricket. The perception that people are more inclined towards witnessing a spectacle of a batsman beating the life out of a hapless bowler has contributed to this phenomenon. The pitches are flatter, boundaries are shorter, blades have grown fatter and even the benefit of doubt is reserved for a batsman. How can a bowler survive when the whole setup is being constantly tweaked against his liking? The answer is enriching their armoury with new weapons and their judicious use leaving a batsman confounded. In other words, a bowler in today`s world needs to have a handful of tricks up his sleeves that he can summon at will.
To get an extra edge, some will claim to have walked the extra mile making them the proud owner of a `mystery delivery`. To them we refer to as a `mystery bowler`. Of course, some of these outrageous claims are, at times, just aimed at messing up with the mind of a batsman.
These bowlers` claim to fame rests on the fact that they have mastered a new delivery that is sure to leave an unsuspecting batsman dumbfounded. The fact is - eventually their secret code will be cracked and unless the bowler can survive without his `ace of a delivery`, he is sure to be lost into oblivion.
Amit Mishra is no mystery bowler. In fact, he is as orthodox a leg spinner as you would expect one to be. Born in a family whose sole bread earner happened to be his father, Mishra wanted to do well as a cricketer so as to land a job that would fetch him a decent living. His efforts were put to pay when he donned the national colours for the first time in an ODI against South Africa in 2003.
Like everyone else, his dream was to play Test cricket. However, even though he was a consistent performer in the domestic circuit, he had to wait five years after his ODI debut to bask in the glory of walking in whites for the national side. Of course, that opportunity came only after legendary spinner Anil Kumble picked up a shoulder injury and had to sit out of the Nagpur Test against Australia in 2008.
Grabbing the rare opportunity with both hands, Mishra picked up his first and only five-wicket haul (till date) that included the likes of Michael Clarke, Shane Watson among others. He became the sixth Indian bowler to take a fiver on Test debut. Kumble announced his retirement in the following Test in Delhi. Thus his chances of becoming a Test regular improved significantly. However, it is another story that despite making his ODI debut half-a-decade back, he wasn`t a regular player in the limited-over side.
A similar story unfolded in the five-day format too and the fact is - Mishra has just 13 Test caps to his name largely due to his failure to live up to the expectations.
Amit Mishra was included in the Indian team for the Zimbabwe tour. This was his first appearance for the national side in two years after he last played for them. In the bilateral series against Zimbabwe, with the help of his googlies and subtle variations, Mishra lead the bowling charts with some brilliant performances. He sure looks to have worked really hard to stake a claim in a side that seems to have successfully undergone a transitional phase on the back of some brilliant performances.
After a successful IPL season, Mishra was included in the squad for the 2013 Champions Trophy but he ended up witnessing his teammates winning the tournament sitting on the bench. However, when presented with the opportunity to make the cut in Zimbabwe, he has made everyone sit up and take notice. The manner in which he has gone about his business speaks volumes of how much he has learned from his past mistakes.
At the same time, the quality of the opposition cannot be ignored while assessing his performance. Nevertheless, Mishra has shown maturity on the current tour and can be a major contender to land a place in the national side when Australia visit India for a seven-match ODI series in October later this year. Whether Mishra will finally be able to play his first ODI for India at home depends on how the selectors look upon his show against the African side. Till then, all Mishra can do is keep up the good work and hope for the best.